Published: January 17, 2017
Finished: Januay 7, 2017
Genre: Contemporary Fiction / Historical Fiction (Early 20th Century)
Source: TLC Book Tours and HarperCollins Publishers
You might enjoy this book if you like: Stories set during Prohibition, Dual time-line stories, gangster stories
When she discovers her husband cheating, Ella Hawthorne impulsively moves out of their SoHo loft and into a small apartment in an old Greenwich Village building. Her surprisingly attractive new neighbor, Hector, warns her to stay out of the basement at night. Tenants have reported strange noises after midnight—laughter, clinking glasses, jazz piano—even though the space has been empty for decades. Back in the Roaring Twenties, the place hid a speakeasy.
In 1924, Geneva "Gin" Kelly, a smart-mouthed flapper from the hills of western Maryland, is a regular at this Village hideaway known as the Christopher Club. Caught up in a raid, Gin becomes entangled with Prohibition enforcement agent Oliver Anson, who persuades her to help him catch her stepfather Duke Kelly, one of Appalachia’s most notorious bootleggers.
Headstrong and independent, Gin is no weak-kneed fool. So how can she be falling in love with the taciturn, straight-arrow Revenue agent when she’s got Princeton boy Billy Marshall, the dashing son of society doyenne Theresa Marshall, begging to make an honest woman of her? While anything goes in the Roaring Twenties, Gin’s adventures will shake proper Manhattan society to its foundations, exposing secrets that shock even this free-spirited redhead—secrets that will echo from Park Avenue to the hollers of her Southern hometown.
As Ella discovers more about the basement speakeasy, she becomes inspired by the spirit of her exuberant predecessor, and decides to live with abandon in the wicked city too. . . .
I kind of feel like I need some sort of award for finally reading a Beatriz Williams' book. I've been meaning to read one for years--multiple times I've checked her earlier books out of the library and just never had a chance to get to them, and I've even nearly purchased a few. It was this one, her newest novel, that I was finally able to get to--and it was well worth the wait.
There were two stories here--the modern tale involving a soon-to-be divorced Ella and a historical story set during Prohibition with Gin (get it?) running from her gangster step-father. The two stories are tied together by the building where Ella is now living, which connects through the basement to what used to be the speakeasy Gin would frequent.
I enjoyed Ella's story, although I didn't find it to be very complex. Still, Williams conveyed the emotions that Ella experienced as she went through the process of grieving her failing marriage and deciding to move forward in life. She also captured a slice of life in modern New York City. This isn't a "Sex in the City" sort of thing--but rather a woman in pain finding her way in life. I appreciated that Williams chose not to sensationalize Ella's tale.
Gin's story is far more prominent in this book, which makes sense. The story line is much more involved and incredibly action packed. Williams brings early 20th century New York alive here and Gin is a unique heroine for this time period. She also goes through the ins and outs of prohibition in a way that someone who is not familiar with the history can still follow the plot.
As I said, there is quite a bit of action in these parts--think gangsters and cops sort of thing--but I never felt like I was drowning in what was happening. The pace was appropriate, but the story was never lost. In doing this, Williams avoided many of the pitfalls that frequently befall other stories where the plot advances at a gallop.
Dual-time novels, and books with more than one narrator, can be for me to read at times. This one worked for me because Williams consciously writes in two different styles. The voice of Ella's story is drastically different than the voice of Gin's, and this makes the entire novel just work better.
While I enjoyed these stories, the novel was not perfect. I didn't feel that the two stories truly fit together as I would have liked. In fact, I probably would have preferred just reading two different novels. I also felt that Williams started something with the paranormal aspect of the story, but never really delivered on that.
However, those flaws were not large enough to keep me from enjoying this novel. I don't know if this is the best Beatriz Williams novel to begin with, but I found no problem jumping in here--and I do plan to read more of her novels. That said, I would still feel comfortable recommending this one to anyone, whether or not they've read any of her previous novels.
A graduate of Stanford University with an MBA from Columbia, Beatriz Williams spent several years in New York and London hiding her early attempts at fiction, first on company laptops as a communications strategy consultant, and then as an at-home producer of small persons, before her career as a writer took off. She lives with her husband and four children near the Connecticut shore.
Find out more about Beatriz at her website, and connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
I was given a copy of this book in return for an honest review. I received no other compensation for this post.
If you would like to read more about this book, please check out the other stops on this book tour.